Later with Jools Holland: the first show of the series, and lessons learned.

Jools Holland

I went along – with my parents – to the recording of the first show in the new series (series 38, no less) of Later with Jools Holland. With major-channel music television hardly in rude health, Later represents something of a one-stop-shop for what’s shaking in the mainstream; and, of course, it dips its toes into newer territories when opportunities present themselves. The format’s perhaps a little rusty these days, but it works, and while Jools himself isn’t the best presenter under pressure, he exudes a friendly warmth on air that is undoubtedly part of the show’s enduring appeal. Anyway, here’s who was on, and what was learned.

Never put your live broadcast in the hands of jazz musicians. McCoy Tyner, veteran of performances alongside the likes of John Coltrane and Benny Golson, appeared with support from sax player Gary Bartz. When going out live, he neglected to acknowledge the frantic waving of production staff to wrap up, as Elbow were primed and ready to close the show. At 25 minutes into proceedings, there is clear panic in the ranks. Watch it on iPlayer here.

Raphael Saadiq has a point to prove. An award-winner stateside, the soul musician’s not made all that significant of an impression on the mainstream this side of the pond. His performance on Later may change that. The tracks he, and his fine band, played from new album Stone Rollin’ were the best of the night. The man, he knows how to boogie – and for once I can use that term in relation to Jools without doing a sick in my mouth.

Beady Eye look bored to be in Beady Eye. Bless Andy Bell for showing up – but he could have phoned that in. At least he, and Gem, cheered up when Saadiq was on. Smiles were cracked. With nothing in their songs (BBC album review here) to stand out from the crowd, recycling as they do motifs widely heard throughout the past 40 years of pop, Liam Gallagher’s charges turned everything up louder than anyone else in order to make their presence felt. But nobody, aside from a couple of scary, cougar-class oldies in the audience (who might have been part of the band’s entourage of family and friends, anyway) and Mrs Liam, Nicole Appleton, really cared. The ex-All Saints singer was dutifully bobbing along with the outfit’s tired retro-rock. She must look at her sister’s hubby’s continuing critical acclaim and wonder where it all fell apart for her Liam. One word: Noel.

Anna Calvi can sing a bit. I still don’t get the fuss, though. Her album has done okay, she’s fronting the NME Radar Tour… people seem to like her. But I hear no depth. No soul. It’s all so staged. Perhaps she’ll turn me at some point – but a handful of live encounters in, and I’m no closer to clicking with the girl.

The Tallest Man on Earth, a Swede by the name of Kristian, can sing a bit. I don’t think anyone in the audience knew who he was though, nor cared. Shame, because with just a single acoustic performance he displayed more energy than Beady Eye and Calvi’s crew managed across all of their songs combined. His album of 2010, The Wild Hunt, is worth picking up if you were moved by his Later showing.

Elbow are a great band playing so-so songs from an ordinary album. Guy Garvey gives it his all when asked to, and seems a thoroughly splendid chap. An everyman done good. Unlike Jool’s chat with Liam and Gem, who answered questions with a series of monosyllabic grunts, Garvey charmed effortlessly – check out the extended show at the weekend. But Build a Rocket Boys! just isn’t the equal of The Seldom Seen Kid. Perhaps their best work comes from dark places – and with money to burn these days, they’ve not been there for a while.

Watch the first show of series 38 of Later with Jools Holland on iPlayer. The extended pre-record show goes out on Friday and Saturday.

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